DiNapoli audits Cattaraugus County

LITTLE VALLEY – Many of the suggestions provided in a municipal audit are already being put into effect by Cattaraugus County.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli recently announced his office had completed a series of audits that included Cattaraugus County.

“My office’s audits of local governments improve their financial management practices,” DiNapoli said. “These audits are tools for local officials to make sure proper policies and procedures are in place to protect taxpayer dollars and provide the best possible service these taxpayer dollars can deliver.”

According to the audit, Cattaraugus County officials had not established policies and procedures to monitor the Microenterprise Development Loan Fund program. Although the county’s contract with the Business Development Corporation requires quarterly and annual reporting, the audit found the BDC provided untimely and insufficiently detailed activity reports.

For the Children with Special Needs program, auditors found client files were not always available or complete. Auditors also reviewed 16 transportation claims totaling $100,566 and found exceptions with five claims totalling $85,654.

The audit also found the legislature had not established policies and procedures relating to the security of data and assets, including user access, a formal disaster recovery plan and IT security awareness training for users of the county network.

“The general feeling is, whenever you have an audit, you always want to do things the best possible way you can,” said John “Jack” Searles, Cattaraugus County administrator. “A set of audit findings are something where you have an external set of eyes looking at your policies and procedures and recommending, in this case, that you do things differently.”

In the end, Searles said, the county acknowledges the audit’s findings and had a series of rebuttals that are bound into the audit as well.

Many of the items identified in the audit already have remedies in play, Searles said. Regarding the BDC, one of the recommendations in the audit was to pull operations in-house. That has already been adopted in the county’s 2013 budget, which was adopted in November 2012.

Additionally, with the Children with Special Needs Program, Searles said the auditors were presented with proper documentation regarding the transportation claims, which was then noted in a footnote.

“The solution there is that we change our filing system,” Searles said. “And, we will do that and we move forward from there.”

As for the IT pieces, Searles said those items were ones the county had self-identified because there was already an approved capital project in place.

“We acknowledge that they were there and we will do what we can to modify the way we have done things so that we can do things better,” Searles said. “We see this as a learning experience with a different set of eyes looking at the way we have done things traditionally.”

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